Rick Stansbury has had to sign a lot of players his first two recruiting cycles.
From high school seniors to junior college transfers to graduate students to traditional transfers and to even a couple international prospects, there have been 25 newcomers enter the doors that lead to E.A. Diddle Arena since the former Mississippi State coach was hired in March of 2016.
The plan for the next period of significant recruiting, from Nov. 14-21, won’t be to ink as many signees this time around. That’s due to more stability inside Stansbury’s program and a solid foundation of returning talent.
“Will we sign any in November? I don’t know. Do we sign two or three in November?” Stansbury said. “For the year we’ve got 3-4 that we can sign and that’s good compared to the way it’s been.”
Western Kentucky enters the year with just two seniors in Lamonte Bearden and Auburn alum Desean Murray. But junior college guard Trevelin Queen left the program last month which opens up another available roster spot for the 2019-20 season.
It’s also possible freshman center Charles Bassey turns to professional basketball after his one year on The Hill.
“On paper, what do we have, two seniors? Naturally through fallout you’ll have (Queen’s) scholarship already, so that’s three. There will be another one somewhere,” Stansbury said. “But just going into it you don’t have to sign but three or four guys. That’s a lot easier going into.
“We’ve been recruiting some guys and we’re trying to get some guys – the ones we’re not supposed to have. That’s the ones we want.”
Jackson Harlan, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Clinton County High School, scored 26.5 points per game as a junior at CCHS and committed to WKU in June. It’s unclear at this time whether Harlan will sign scholarship papers or join the program as a walk-on.
Stansbury will be patient and selective with who he makes his No. 1 target next. A few names to consider include, but are not limited to:
• Damion Baugh, a 6-foot-3, 170-pound guard playing at Tennessee Preparatory Academy in Memphis, Tenn.
• Terry Armstrong, a 6-foot-6, 185-pound guard playing at Bella Vista Prep in Scottsdale, Ariz.
• Tyrell Jones, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound guard playing at West Oaks Academy in Orlando, Fla.
• Sammy Hunter, a 6-foot-9, 200-pound forward playing at British Columbia Christian Academy in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada.
• Andre Gordon, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound guard playing at Huntington Prep in Huntington, W. Va.
• Keshad Johnson, a 6-foot-7, 200-pound forward playing at Envision Academy in Oakland, Calif.
• Marion Humphrey, a 6-foot-3 guard at TaylorMade Academy in Birmingham, Ala.
• Wilkenson Isnord, a 6-foot-7, 210-pound forward playing at DME Academy in Daytona Beach, Fla.
• Lester Quinones, a 6-foot-5, 180-pound shooting guard playing at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Stansbury said he isn’t looking for coaches to call him with prospects who won't be able to cut it at the highest level of college basketball.
“We want the same ones everybody else wants. We don’t want the ones who are supposed to be here. Those guys get you beat,” he said. “We want the ones who are not supposed to be here – in ya’ll’s eyes. In our eyes they are.
“Until they change the structure of the NCAA Tournament – there’s one NCAA Tournament. And we all play for the same thing. They don’t have different levels of it. If they have different levels of it then you recruit differently. Until they change that, we all gotta have the same type of players.”
Western Kentucky is coming off a 27-win season with victories over Purdue, Southern Methodist, Marshall, Old Dominion, Boston College, Southern California and Oklahoma State. The Hilltoppers also played last year in front of an average home crowd of 5,487 fans inside the 7,326-seat Diddle Arena.
Those factors have helped heighten WKU’s brand, but haven’t changed Stansbury’s scope.
“Anytime you have success – I can preach what we’re gonna do, but when you start seeing some results of what you’re gonna do I think it makes it easier,” he said. “It doesn’t change guys we’re gonna go after and target.”
— Follow WBKO sportswriter Chad Bishop on Twitter @MrChadBishop